Eduvation Blog

The Vaccine Tipping Point

Good morning, and TGIF!

As July comes to an end, today’s as good a day as any to appreciate your friends, father-in-law, or system administrators – or even just cheesecake.

I hate to spend the entire week’s Insiders on the pandemic and vaccination, but there was more on the subject than would fit in Wednesday’s “Vax to the Max?” – and more developments since then. (We’ve got a couple of clarifications and some growing momentum for athletics mandates in Ontario.) So, with my apologies, we return to the theme a second time this week.

But first, I’ve also taken a look at the latest enrolment stats for Ontario universities…



ON Enrolments

Back in mid-June, you may recall that I reported on enrolment applications and confirmations to Ontario universities for the Fall term (see “Bouncing Back & Winning Shots”). OUAC has since released updated enrolment confirmation statistics as of Jul 7, and here are a few updates…


Summer Melt Begins?

From Jun 1 to Jul 7, OUAC reported +458 more enrolment confirmations from HS direct (101s) and +1,932 more from others (105s). To put it in perspective, that’s just +2.3% change out of more than 105,000 incoming students (+6.6% of the 105s, and +0.6% of the 101s). So, as you might expect, most universities reported stable or small increases in confirmations since last month, although notably 7 reported drops in their 101s: uToronto lost -84, York -27, Western -21, Waterloo -20, Queen’s -18, and Laurentian -8 (but as the smallest school by far, that was a -1.3% drop for LU). Virtually every university saw an increase in their confirmed 105s, some quite significant, with 2 exceptions: uToronto lost -208 and uWaterloo -13. (Is improving employment affecting those institutions disproportionately? What other suggestions do you have?)  OUAC


Physics Softens

Likewise, OUAC reported increases in confirmations for almost all program areas, with 4 notable exceptions where confirmations were flat or even declined since Jun 1: Physical Science (-16 101s and -11 105s), Family & Consumer/Human Science (-4 101s), Education (-1 101s) and Health Professions & Related Programs (-1 101s). This suggests some shifting decisions being made by Grade 12 grads in particular – are math scores discouraging students from pursuing Physics? Could this be driven by Laurentian’s program cuts to Physics? Are these subjects just more likely to attract students who make up their minds early, rather than mid-summer? (Any other suggestions?)  OUAC


Nurses Double Down

Confirmed enrolments for Nursing programs, on the other hand, rose considerably between June and July (+96 101s and +79 105s). Compared to 2020 YTD, the incoming class of 101s has gone from +5.8% bigger to +13.6% bigger, and 105s from +6.0% to +8.2%. But this doesn’t so much reflect shifting student interest in Nursing, as the government’s announcement May 14 that it would be investing $35M to add 2,000 nursing school spots at Ontario colleges and universities this fall. (The OUAC stats include only the university enrolments, of course, and some of the increase may have been seen in the Jun 1 numbers).  OUAC



More Vax Mandates

Since Wednesday’s “Vax to the Max?” I have a few updates for you…

Confederation College president Kathleen Lynch reached out to let me know that her July 20 announcement has been misinterpreted widely by the media (and by me). The announcement stated that “students and employees are expected to be fully vaccinated by Tuesday, September 7, 2021 to access our campuses in person” – but Kathleen emphasizes that “expected” is not the same as “required.” She elaborates: “Just like I expect students to study and attend all classes, I expect them to be vaccinated.” Vaccination remains, however, mandatory for students living in Confederation College shared residences. (This means that Seneca College is so far the only CdnPSE making vaccines mandatory for staff or students to enter campus.)

Brock U announced yesterday that full vaccination will be mandatory for all Brock Badgers varsity and club athletes in order to compete in the 2021-22 season, at least 14 days prior to competition. (Brock has about 900 student-athletes.)  Brock News

Lambton College announced yesterday that COVID19 vaccinations will be mandatory for students living in residence this Fall. Residence students must upload “proof, via attestation, of at least a first dose” by Aug 30, and of a second dose by Oct 15. As usual, medical and human rights exemptions will be allowed, but “may impose restrictions on access, activities or room occupancy.”  Lambton

Seneca College president David Agnew penned an op-ed last week to explain “one of the easiest decisions” in his 12 years there, to make Seneca the first CdnPSE to ban unvaccinated staff and students from campus this Fall. “Vaccinations are the only way we will tame and eventually beat this virus,” just as mandatory vaccinations have virtually eliminated polio, smallpox, measles and mumps. In fact, Agnew is urging government to make vaccinations mandatory for returning to school in person. “Now is the time to make it crystal clear that some doors… will remain closed to the unvaccinated.”  Toronto Star


“We beat polio, smallpox, measles, mumps and a host of other viruses and diseases… because we have a program of mandatory vaccinations for children.”David Agnew, President, Seneca College


uToronto announced yesterday that it will require self-declaration of COVID19 vaccination status for “all community members,” and will require vaccination for “high-risk activities” by students, staff, faculty and librarians. (So far, those activities include varsity sports, music instruction and educational placements.) Those who do not indicate they are vaccinated will be provided with rapid screening kits twice weekly.  UofT News

Ontario K-12 students will face different isolation requirements this Fall, depending upon their vax status. (Currently Ontario youth age 12-17 are at 65/42. About 333,000 young people have yet to get their first shot.) The province’s outbreak management plan will require unvaxxed students to learn from home for 10-20 days after each COVID19 exposure, while fully-vaxxed staff and students will face “minimal interruption” and will be able to “attend sports and participate fully in all of the social activities of the school setting.”  CTV


So, while the Ontario government isn’t encouraging vaccine mandates or passports specifically, they are certainly signalling an expectation that fully-vaxxed students will get “perks” and a more complete campus experience this Fall.



Outspoken Faculty

Beyond the faculty association concerns and media interviews by CdnPSE faculty, summarized in previous issues (see the Insider Recap on Vaccination Policies), there have been a couple of national op-eds penned in the past 24 hours…


CdnPSE is “Failing Science”

Health law profs Amir Attaran and Jacob Shelley, from uOttawa and Western U respectively, wrote yesterday in Maclean’s that (with the exception of Seneca College) “Canada’s universities and colleges are failing science” by failing to enact vaccine mandates like the world’s top institutions. Compared to the uCalifornia system, which mandated vaccines in Dec 2020, CdnPSE is “acting as if there is not a pandemic happening, and vaccines are not the way out of it.” They dispute Western’s claim that it has “gone as far as it can go legally” by imposing a vax requirement in residence, pointing to other mandatory vaccines and campus-wide smoking bans as examples. They also dismiss the single-dose requirement at uOttawa as an “unscientific half-measure,” since the world’s health authorities all agree that “one dose does not make for immunization.” At the end of July, it’s too late to be “kicking the can down the road”: CdnPSE should “turn instantly to require full vaccination.”  Maclean’s


“All the Canadian institutions that are requiring no vaccination, or half-vaccination, are so scientifically lost at sea that they cannot teach health promotion or medical ethics without farcically conceding their own misconduct.” – Amir Attaran (uOttawa) and Jacob Shelley (Western U), in Maclean’s



Vax or Campus Shutdown

Lauren Cipriano (at Western’s Ivey School of Business), Gregory Gloor (Western Biochemistry), Wael Haddara and Michael Silverman (of London Health Sciences Centre) wrote in yesterday’s Globe & Mail that “without mandatory vaccines, more campus shutdowns are inevitable.” More than 1M students will return to CdnPSE campuses on Sep 7, a “mass relocation” that poses a pandemic threat to campuses and their surrounding communities. The barrier, they say, is “political will,” and they urge provincial governments the impose a vaccine mandate on PSE campuses. Otherwise, “we will be guaranteeing a return to online education.”  Globe & Mail



Mandate Momentum

COVID19 vaccination is being mandated by a range of governments, employers, and higher ed institutions around North America – including high tech firms, military organizations, and law firms. Here’s a recent sampling…

California and New York City government employees (including teachers and police officers) must either get vaccinated against COVID19 by September, or face weekly COVID19 testing, according to announcements Monday. The Dean of Brown U’s School of Public Health predicts this is the “opening of the floodgates” for announcements by government and corporate employers.  AP

California State U announced Tuesday that students, staff and faculty on all its campuses must be vaccinated starting in September.  National Post

Google announced Wednesday that its 130,000 employees will return to the office starting Oct 18, but that they must be vaccinated against COVID19.  CNBC

Facebook followed suit later that day, announcing that it will require any US employees to be vaccinated before they return to the office.  The Verge

Lyft will require proof of vaccination for employees returning to the office.  Twitter

Netflix will require cast and some crew members on its US productions to be vaccinated against COVID19 before coming to set, with a few exceptions for age, medical and religious reasons.  The Verge

London law firm McKenzie Lake has returned its 150 employees to the office, making it clear WFH is no longer an option – and neither is vaccination. Staff have been told to get fully vaxxed, or “look for another job.”  London Free Press



More Pushback

Then again, there have also been plenty of CdnPSE announcements assuring students (and politicians?) that no vaccine mandate is forthcoming…

Cambrian College is encouraging vaccinations and will be hosting clinics on campus, but won’t require students to be vaxxed in order to study or live on campus this Fall.

Collège Boréal likewise reports that vaccination “will not – at this time – be required” to enter campus.


“Oppressing” the Unvaxxed?

Here in London ON, city councillor Michael Van Holst wanted to ask the city’s Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Oppression Advisory Committee for a “pre-emptive opinion” on whether vaccine mandates represent “an act of coercion and potentially oppression” against the vaccine hesitant, or those merely seeking medical privacy. (City Hall has not instituted any mandates, although the local PHO has expressed support for mandates in high-risk settings.) Thankfully, the motion received no seconder. Van Holst has publicly sided with anti-vax, anti-mask, anti-fluoride and climate change deniers. (Please don’t judge Londoners by our high-profile wackos!)  CTV  |  London Free Press



As usual, Jason Kenney is doing his best imitation of a Republican Texan governor…


Mandates Not Allowed in AB?

Despite the fact that the province is headed for a 4th wave of the pandemic in the wake of the Calgary Stampede and its “Open for Summer” approach (more on that next week), Jason Kenney’s government is clearly discouraging ABpses from following ONpse’s example. A Ministry spokesperson told CBC that “we respect the right of individuals to choose to get the vaccine and will not be requiring post-secondary institutions in Alberta to mandate vaccinations on campus. There is no mechanism that would allow institutions to require students to be vaccinated for in-person attendance on campus.”  CBC


“You know, we have other laws like no smoking on campus because the choices of a few people can harm others… It’s not unreasonable to ask people to essentially give up some of their rights when they’re in a community situation. We do it all the time.”Aidan Hollis, Economics Prof, uCalgary




US “Tipping Point”

Whatever you might think about freedom-loving Americans and their resentment of government intrusion into healthcare and corporate governance, on the issue of vaccine mandates the US seems to have reached a tipping point this week…

619 US colleges and universities (and counting) have now made vaccination against COVID19 mandatory for students returning to campus.  Chronicle of Higher Ed

The Association of American Medical Colleges is urging all medical schools and teaching hospitals to make COVID19 vaccination mandatory for their employees and students undertaking clinical placements. “The issue is patients first.” Feedback from member institutions, they report, has been “100% thumbs-up.”  Inside Higher Ed


“For the safety of our patients, communities, health care personnel, faculty, and students, we encourage our members to require vaccinations for employees.”Association of American Medical Colleges


US federal employees and contractors must be vaccinated, or else submit to regular testing and mitigation requirements, according to an announcement anticipated yesterday by president Joe Biden. (The White House can’t readily impose a national requirement when states have jurisdiction, but it can regulate federal employees.)

Courts are upholding vaccine mandates by US employers, who have the right to make them a “condition of employment,” according to federal legal guidance this week, even if they have only emergency-use authorization from the FDA. Antivax employees are entitled to “reasonable accommodation” on medical or religious grounds, but not to the point of “undue hardship for the employer.” And unvaxxed staff can be subject to testing, mask requirements, social distancing, alternate work schedules, remote work and/or reassignment.  AP  |  Washington Post

57 US healthcare groups, including the American Medical Association and Nurses Association, issued a joint statement Monday urging “all health care and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID19.” The groups represent millions of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health workers. As of May 30, an estimated 25% of US frontline hospital workers still hadn’t been vaccinated.  Washington Post

Numerous editorials are embracing a future of mandatory vaccines. The Washington Post opines that employer mandates have reached “a tipping point” (quoting California’s health secretary, Mark Ghaly). Slatesays “It’s time to start requiring vaccinations. Bring on the passports!Vice writes that “COVID vaccine mandates are coming, so get used to it.”


Really, what more can I say?


“The carrot of being able to drastically reduce your chances of dying on a ventilator has been available long enough, and with limited enough effect, that the stick is starting to look real nice.”Ben Mathis-Lilley, in Slate





Find Your Wings

Kennesaw State U (GA) launched the “Find Your Wings” brand initiative last year, building on its “Owls” athletic brand. This 30-sec commercial explains that you don’t go to KSU just for a degree, but “to find your voice… your heart… your code… your wings.” The full brand campaign included digital, print, TV, radio, outdoor, social, and campus murals of outstretched owl wings as backdrops for student and alum selfies.  YouTube  |  KSU



As always, thanks for reading!

It looks like a long weekend across most of the country, with provinces marking British Columbia Day, Saskatchewan Day, New Brunswick Day, Heritage Day (AB), Terry Fox Day (MB), Natal Day (NS), or just plain “Civic Holiday” (NU, NT, ON, PEI) – Hey, doesn’t Quebec get the day off?

Anyway, enjoy a safe and relaxing long weekend if you can! As for me, I guess I’ll be working on another Insider for Tuesday morning…


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